With less than two weeks to go before he's set to introduce a doomsday budget predicated on the imminent disappearance of about a $1 billion in revenue, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is almost singularly focused on cutting a deal with Republican lawmakers to replace money the state will lose if the Legislature doesn't replace temporary sales taxes that expire this summer.
But while the looming "fiscal cliff" was the main topic of conversation during Edwards' lunchtime address to the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday, he also hinted that he's thinking about something a little further beyond: His 2019 reelection campaign.
Lawmakers are barred from raising taxes during the upcoming regular session, which is why Edwards is hoping to call a special session in February and avert passage of a budget that drastically slashes higher education and health care. But he'll have an agenda for the regular session too, and Monday, in response to a question over what it would include, he offered some ideas aimed at his Democratic base and some that would help counter conservative attacks.
On the left side of the ledger, Edwards said he'd try again to raise the state minimum wage and address the largest gender pay gap in the country. Both proposals were planks from his first campaign, but neither has gotten traction in the GOP majority Legislature.
But Edwards also said he'd seek to make the climate more friendly to small businesses and end some longstanding regulations. And he said he's looking into instituting "reasonable" work and education requirements for Medicaid recipients. All of these are ideas that would likely play well on the right.
They're also proposals that Republicans in the Legislature would probably be inclined to back. After two years of fights over funding government and likely more to come, it's not so hard to see the appeal of that.